How to Claim a Travel Refund
09th January 2017
If you've worked with RIFT before, then you've heard us talk a lot about claiming refunds for the travel you do for work. Just for a change, let's take a look at how to claim for the journeys that you didn't make. Yes, you read that right, now read on to find out more.
It happens to everyone sooner or later. Maybe there's a mechanical fault or maybe you just overslept. For whatever reason, you've wasted a train or airline ticket and you're out of pocket. Well, that's not necessarily true. It turns out there are several situations where you can claim a refund for delayed or cancelled journeys.
With train travel, there's a pretty good chance you can get money back if you're delayed by over half an hour. Keep in mind that the "delay" is based on the time you arrive where you're going, not the time you departed. If you reach your destination over 30 minutes late, you might have a claim. It won't even usually matter why the train was delayed. Some train companies are signed up to the Delay Repay scheme, while others have their own system. Either way, you'll have to contact the company, and can probably expect to get at least half of your fare back. The 30-minute minimum delay isn't universal, but it's pretty common. Individual firms might have their own rules, so it's worth checking their terms to see what you're entitled to.
Don't get fobbed off with vouchers, either. Companies have to offer at least one form of monetary compensation option. That might mean a refund on your payment card, a bank transfer or even a cheque, if you still remember what those are.
It's not just delays and cancellations you can claim for, either. The Consumer Rights Act means you might be entitled to compensation for things like a lack of seats or broken toilets, too. This kind of thing can sometimes get fiddly, though. Whatever you're claiming for, the key thing to remember is to get it done within 28 days. If you miss that deadline, you might be out of luck as well as pocket.
For air travel, things are a little different. If your EU-regulated flight's delayed for over 3 hours, you might be able to claim as much as £510 in compensation. "EU-regulated" means you took off from an EU airport (with any airline) or landed at one (with an EU airline). You can even claim for flights going back several years, although it's still always better to claim early.
The key difference with air travel is that you can only claim if the airline was actually at fault. That includes things like staffing problems, but not unavoidable bad weather. Again, it's when you arrive that matters, not when you took off.
If your plane is actually cancelled, you've got the choice of either a refund or an alternative flight. In this case, it doesn't matter whose fault the cancellation was. If you get bumped off an overbooked flight, or voluntarily offer to give up your seat, you've still got the same rights. In the case of overbooking, though, the airline is generally considered to be at fault. That means you can get compensation for that as well.
As you know, we mostly talk about tax at RIFT. Surprisingly, there actually is a tax angle to consider here. A large chunk of your plane ticket's cost is down to Air Passenger Duty - a tax on travel. If you don't make your flight for any reason, you've basically paid tax that you don't technically owe. On a journey of over 2,001 miles, for example, the price of even the cheapest ticket you'll find will include £73 of tax! If you don't make your flight, you've paid tax on a journey you never made. That money, however, never even makes it to HMRC. The airline only pays it on after an occupied seat takes off. If you don't happen to be in that seat, they usually just quietly pocket the extra cash!
Of course, airlines probably aren't going to make things easy for you. Depending on the company, you might have to jump through hoops or pay administrative fees to claim your tax back from them. In some cases, those fees might mean it's not even be worth claiming. Stay on your toes so you don't get caught out.
In an ideal world, you wouldn't have to deal with delays, cancellations and other inconveniences. Until that world shows up, though, at least make sure you don't get stuck paying for services you didn't get or journeys you couldn't make. That's RIFT's advice - and you can take it to the bank.